OVERVIEW: Formerly under Communist rule as a republic of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is one of the wealthiest Central Asian nations because of its mineral resources. Islam has experienced a revival since the fall of the Soviet Union, with many returning to what they consider the religion of their parents. Today Kazakhstan emulates its European neighbors, undertaking massive construction projects, enjoying a growing financial sector and adopting the Latin alphabet used by the Western world.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: 52 percent of Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims. The next largest group are atheists or non-religious, owing to decades of atheistic Communist rule. 15 percent are Christians, of which less than 1 percent are evangelicals.
PERSECUTOR: Christians are persecuted by their families and communities. Churches and Christians outside the Russian Orthodox faith are restricted and harassed by the government.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN KAZAKHSTAN: Some churches worship openly, but they are closely watched. Kazakhs are used to Russian Orthodox Christians, but they are suspicious of those who hold services in the Kazakh native tongue. All religious activities must be registered with the government. Believers are commonly fined for distributing religious texts, discussing religion or holding worship meetings. Christian children are mocked at school. The families of Christian converts often beat them or otherwise publicly humiliate them. Unregistered churches must meet in private homes. The average age of those attending unregistered churches is 70 years old. Many younger Kazakh believers left the country in the first decade of the 21st century. In recent years, three Kazakh believers have been imprisoned on false charges. All three have been released.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are available, but distribution is restricted and they are difficult to obtain outside large cities.
VOM WORK: VOM provides Bibles and supports front-line workers in the most difficult regions.